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Top 10 Dives in the U.S. Virgin Islands

By Travis Marshall | March 27, 2020
Where to dive in the U.S. Virgin Islands and what to know before visiting.

Easy access from the mainland U.S., no passports required for U.S. citizens, and a variety of amazing dives from plunging walls to hulking wrecks to laid-back reefs - make a trip to America's Caribbean a must-do for divers who want to kick back and "lime."

1. Salt River Canyon

St. Croix's north shore is one of the best-kept secrets in wall diving, and this site has two walls facing each other across a quarter mile of blue water. Hordes of reef fish swarm the tops of the walls, deep-water sea fans and black coral cling to the deeper sections, and big animals like hammerheads and black-tips sometimes make appearances.

Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate to Advanced

2. Carval Rock

Drop down on the sheltered south side of this rock formation, then kick hard against the stiff current flowing through "The Cut," a shallow, submerged passage through the rock. Let the current take you 360 degrees around the rock, past dramatic formations and through a narrow canyon packed with baitfish and tarpon. The sheer wall on the east end drops to 80 feet/24 meters, and the shallow coral gardens on the way back to the boat are good places to look for nurse sharks, reef squid and octopus.

Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

3. WIT Shoal II

This 330-foot/110 meter freighter and former tank landing ship was first sunk by a tropical storm in 1984, then six months later towed to her current resting place west of Saba Island. The ship sits upright at 90 feet/27 meters, with the pilothouse starting at 30 feet/9 meters. Cup corals and sponges encrust the ship, and open holds and companionways provide refuge for grouper and barracuda.

Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

4. Butler Bay Wrecks

These five distinct wrecks clumped together on St. Croix's northwest tip can be done in one dive — if you move fast. Better yet, take it easy and see them all over two dives. The Rosaomaira is the deepest at 110 feet/34 meters, and the Northwind, once used as a prop in the 1980s television movie Dreams of Gold: The Mel Fisher Story, tops out at 20 feet/6 meters.

Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

5. French Cap

This small cay south of St. Thomas is too far for most dive boats to visit with any regularity, but when the weather is perfect, special trips do happen and they're worth it. There are a few spots to dive here, and the Pinnacle is one you shouldn't miss. A handful of rock spires shoot up from the 95-foot/29 meter bottom to about 40 feet/12 feet. Jacks and barracuda chase swarms of reef fish around the summit. Craggy fissures provide ample nooks for green morays and octopus to hide.

Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

6. Cow and Calf

These sister sites are easily accessible from either St. Thomas or St. John. Both feature undersea playgrounds complete with arches, canyons and swim-throughs at a max depth of 45 feet/14 meters. At Cow Rock, a tunnel packed with silversides ends with "The Champagne Cork," a vertical opening where the surge pops divers out onto the surrounding staghorn coral reef. Look for gray reef sharks cruising the perimeter.

Recommended minimum skill level: Beginner

7. Congo Cay

This dive starts in a wide sand channel where large southern stingrays rest and forage for food. Follow your dive guide through a backbone of rock spires to the coral-draped wall. Dolphins sometimes cruise the sand channel surrounding the cay. Depths are between 25 and 80 feet/ 7 and 24 meters with the best formations and marine life between 35 and 60 feet/10 and 18 meters.

Recommended minimum skill level: Beginner to Intermediate

8. Frederiksted Pier

Macro life abounds at this simple, but diverse beach dive on St. Croix's western shore. Depths reach 50 feet/15 meters at the end of the pier, but the pilings in 25 feet/7 meters or less host an array of hard-to-find critters like seahorses, batfish, and frogfish.

Recommended minimum skill level: Beginner

9. Eagle Shoals

This rarely visited site off the east end of St. John is best known for "The Cathedral," a large, open chamber accessed by multiple entryways. Look up to see streams of sunlight pouring in from the "skylight."

Recommended minimum skill level: Beginner

10. Tunnels of Thatch

These tunnels on the north side of Thatch Cay are only safe when flat calm surface conditions keep the surge down. You'll meander through a winding path of baitfish- and tarpon-packed canyons and caverns, then explore a sloping, boulder-strewn hillside at depths of 25 to 40 feet/7 and 12 meters.

Recommended minimum skill level: Intermediate

Pre-Dive Check

Country: USA

Primary Languages: English, but locals also speak a Virgin Islands creole.

Currency: U.S. dollar.

Cultural Influences: Danish, American, African.

Signature Dishes: Callaloo, a spinach- or collard greens-based soup, and fungi, a type of cornmeal porridge.

Signature Marine Life: Southern stingrays make regular appearances in the sand channels between the reefs, and during the summer, huge tarpon show up to feed on the schools of baitfish.

Topside Sporting Pastime: Sailing. And during the first week in July, St. Croix's Emancipation Day donkey races draw big crowds and even bigger laughs.

Topside Trinkets: Caribbean hook bracelets, Cruzan rum.

Travel Savvy Tip: No passport is required to travel in "America's Caribbean," but bring one along if you want to take a side trip to the nearby British Virgin Islands.

Taking the Plunge


Fahrenheit: Low 60s to mid-70s in winter; mid-80s in summer.

Celsius: 15 to 24 in the winter; around 30 degrees in summer

Water temp:

Fahrenheit: high 70s in winter to mid-80s°F in summer

Celsius: Roughly 25 degrees in winter to about 30 degrees in the summer


Averages 60 to 100 feet/18 to 30 meters

More Information:

To learn more about planning your U.S. Virgin Islands dive vacation, log on to the official USVI Department of Tourism website.


Start your adventure today.


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